Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aikido and jujutsu: a comparison

I have been training for the past five weeks with Sensei Bill Troy of the Pinelands Jujutsu Club at the Kissaki Kai USA headquarters in Marlton NJ. The course, an introduction to Small Circle jujutsu, focused on four techniques: ude osae (arm bar), kote gaeshi (wrist lock/throw), shiho nage (four corner throw) and hadaka jime (rear naked strangle). The techniques were applied from standing, seated, and on the ground position. Emphasis was placed on fluid transition between techniques, a hallmark of the small circle jujutsu system.

The techniques mentioned above are quite familiar to most martial arts practitioners in some shape or form; having studied aikido in the past just made them a bit easier to work with within the framework of jujutsu's different approach to their application. A bit easier, but not that easy...

You see, aikido and jujutsu may share many techniques in their repertoire. Yet I discovered that the spirit, the intent of the applications differed quite significantly between the arts. Aikido is at its heart a defensive art (not that it cannot be used offensively); in the beginning stages of training most techniques are practiced against a person being attacked. Jujutsu, by contrast, has no qualms against striking first before performing a throw, lock or sweep; being direct and going on the offense as defense is part of its curriculum.

Take for example an arm bar. In aikido, a tenkan variation of ude osae as defense against a rear grab/choke is more circular, less jarring against uke than the same technique in jujutsu. In jujutsu, the arm is more directly forced downward and forward, with less "walking" of uke; both variations bring uke down on his stomach with tori affecting side control of the body by locking the arm. Yet jujutsu accomplishes this in a "harder" way, more quickly bringing uke under control (as it should be during an actual altercation).

Most of the class, I had to be conscious of what I was supposed to be doing rather than what my past training said I should be doing... the parallels of the two disciplines are not lost on me but the guiding philosophies behind the arts are dissimilar enough in application that they gave me pause sometimes.  Jujutsu is probably more useful in the short term for self defense than aikido; the learning curve in aikido can be steep, and more skill is needed to subdue a person without harming them than when you don't care so much about their broken arm.

The way techniques are practiced in jujutsu is very much to my liking... aikido waza can be somewhat repetitive and static in early training which can become boring and rob a technique of that feeling of "aliveness" needed to make them useful as developmental aids.  Jujutsu goes a little farther IMO, working more on "what if" scenarios during the application of techniques, going for the flowing transition if something doesn't go according to the plan (which happens more often than not in real life). More important to me is the ground work that follows up after a standing technique has uke down, something I have very little meaningful training in (I do not want a fight to end up on the ground if I can help it, and if it did my main defense would be unrelenting elbows, knees, biting and head bashing).  Aikido goes for control of the opponent, and stops short of punishing an attacker.  I have a lot of respect for aikido, and a lot of its repertoire works quite well for me due to my size and reach, but the street applicability of some of its techniques as practiced in the dojo was a bit "suspect" to put it charitably...

Being a veritable neophyte is quite fulfilling as well as maddening sometimes; finding different ways to apply familiar training can be more difficult than learning new things to use without any prior comparisons or experience. But I take it in stride, new insights into old, entrenched "knowledge" can be very illuminating and exciting. Just keeping an open mind can bring unexpected benefits to a stale viewpoint...

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